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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Medical response capabilities in New York City are stretched seriously thin, and medical professionals are rationing supplies, according to one hospital emergency medicine chief.
There have been more than 480,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The virus has killed more than 22,000.
In the United States, 68,802 have been reported sickened, with 1,037 reported deaths, according to the most recent figures.
New York state is where the largest number of cases in the nation has been.
“You know, I’m not here to talk politics. I’m here to talk about patients and the reality is what we’re seeing right now in our emergency rooms is dire,” Dr Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said in a CNN interview. “Last week when I went to work we talked about the one or two patients amongst the dozens of others that might have been a covid or coronavirus patient. This week in my shift nearly every single patient I took care of was coronavirus and many of them extremely severe. Many were put on breathing tubes. Many decompensated quickly.
“Our first New York City case was on March 1. That’s just over three weeks ago. To think that will be in anyplace to lift these restrictionary measures by Easter in two or three weeks, for me seems completely magical thinking,” Dr Spencer added, referring to Donald Trump’s stated desire to end the restrictive social distancing by Easter. “What we know is that this math and modelling map can tell us is the number of cases going to continue to rise. We’re really at the beginning of this outbreak. You can feel that. You can sense it. It’s palpable on the front lines in the emergency department.”
Supplies in the New York hospitals are extremely tight, Dr Spencer said.
“Yeah, the supply chain is extremely tight. One thing I tell people when I worked in west Africa for ebola, the one thing I never worried about was having enough ppe, personal protective equipment,” he said. “It’s something my colleagues all over New York City are worried about now. The number of masks people are given, we’re given — some people are given one n-95 respirator mask, the thicker one that helps prevent the virus from being inhaled by a provider. Given one of those a week. And the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] doesn’t want you using those. People are given one surgical mask a shift.
“And everyone is doing everything they can to conserve supplies because we know we’re just at the beginning of this,” Dr Spencer said. “And after New York will be New Jersey, will be New Mexico. This is going to be a marathon. We are not even at the beginning.”
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